Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette
By Maria Semple
Rating: ***
Read 9/27/2013

I can’t remember why I thought I wanted to read this, other than maybe the Seattle setting. It’s another one of those “not my thing” books that turned out okay. The dialogue is what makes the book, I think. The characters do pop right off the page, and are for the most part very realistic. Bernadette herself was my favorite because it’s easy to see how things could happen to a brilliant architect/artist so she finds herself in the position Bernadette winds up in. Frothy fun with the odd nugget of brilliance.

Review: When We Wake by Karen Healey

When We Wake
by Karen Healey
Rating: ****
Date read 9/12/2013

I had a blog once where every entry’s title was a Bob Dylan song. So when I picked this up and saw that every chapter title was a Beatles song, I knew I wanted to read it. I enjoyed this book for reasons other than the chapter titles of course, but they added to my enjoyment.

A believable dystopia with engaging characters. I liked the central conceit, and I liked the unsentimental narration. Some of the situations were a little pat, but served the plot very well. I’m a fan, and I’ll be reading the rest of these when they come out.

Review: Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill

Bo at Ballard Creek
by Kirkpatrick Hill
Rating: ****
Read 8/7/2013

Yup, as Wendy promised, this was a delightful book written FOR kids instead of AT them. Hill’s authorial eye has the ability to focus on the detail in the scene that is most interesting to a kid, and pull it to the forefront, look at it from several angles, and then move on. I love the setting, I love the time period, but most of all, I love the characters. Some of the background characters sort of blend together, but for the most part each quirky individual shines in their own particular way. Highly recommended.

Review: Nine Lives: A Chef’s Journey from Chaos to Control by Brandon Baltzley

Nine Lives: A Chef’s Journey from Chaos to Control
by Brandon Baltzley
Rating: ***
Read 8/3/2013
An interesting, if incomplete, autobiography. Incomplete because the author isn’t even 30 yet, and one hopes he will be cooking for a good long time yet. He’s had quite a struggle with crack cocaine, and though he details various of his binges and rehabs, he never talks much about the mental state he’s in at any given time. I would have liked better more interior detail and less exterior. He gets fired a lot, but one never really gets that he cares, or how he feels. He falls in and out of love a lot, but again, there’s no real insight into his feelings. And he’s kind of a know-it-all. But again, a very talented, relatively young man, which in my experience anyway, is another way of saying “kind of a know-it-all”.

It sounds like I didn’t much like the book, but I did. I really enjoyed the brief tours of many famous kitchens. I especially liked Baltzley’s way of talking about food. I never had any question how he felt about THAT, which is probably why I wanted more feelings about things other than food.

Review: The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks

The Adventures of Superhero Girl
by Faith Erin Hicks
Rating: ****
Read 8/1/2013

This was so much fun! I love Superhero Girl, with her annoying older brother, her roommate troubles, her inability to find an arch-nemesis, the adorable tiny-footed ninjas… and more. It’s a delightful graphic novel that made me giggle multiple times. Really enjoyable and recommended.

Review: Wild: From Lost To Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

by Cheryl Strayed
Rating ****
Read 7/25/2013

This book made me want to run right out and hike the PCT. But not, you know, barefoot. Or broke. I was very involved throughout, and though much of the non-trail stuff made me cringe, the on-trail stuff kept me reading. I’m glad I read it, because it made me think that if she did okay on the trail, as woefully unprepared as she so clearly was, maybe I can do okay on it too.

Review: The Prairie Thief by Melissa Wiley

The Prairie Thief
by Melissa Wiley
Rating: *****
Read 7/18/2013

Wholly delightful. I found it impossible to put down and read it in one great gulp. I don’t think I could have loved it more, had I read it as a child. The characters are lovely, each and all. The story, while never veering from the path to a happy ending, had plenty of dips and bobbles and surprises. I grinned my way through much of it, and am not ashamed to tell you my eyes filled with tears at the end. It’s wholesome without being smarmy, and fun without being arch.

Forgive me if I’m seeing Betsy-Tacy things that aren’t there, but the fact that Pa’s middle name is Warrington made me chortle.

Recommended without reservations.

Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi

by John Scalzi
Rating: **
Read 7/18/2013

This was my first Scalzi. I read it because it won the Locus and is up for the Hugo, and I feel like I need to keep my hand in, see what current SciFi that isn’t Bujold or Walton looks like.

I was moderately amused by this 4th wall-breaking story, but I kept hearkening back to Heinlein. There were no moments herein quite as delightful as when Miss Gay Deceiver translated her crew to Oz. Once again, the grandmaster spoils it for me, notwithstanding the fact that when I tried to re-read The Number of the Beast a few years ago I could not. My memories of that extended in-joke are enough.

So, this story. Amusing, especially if you are a Star Trek TOS fan. None of the characters really came to life for me during the story, but the three codas are pretty wonderful and redeemed the story for me.

Review: Still Points North by Leigh Newman

Still Points North
by Leigh Newman
Rating: ***
Read 5/31/2013

An interesting, involving memoir of a chaotic childhood full of dysfunctional adults, disintegrating relationships, strange relatives and the odd bear. The POV is insanely tight, almost claustrophobic. The writing is pure but the feelings are muddy, full of quicksand. The ending came too soon, the story wrapped up in an endearing but still jarring epilogue. My review copy courtesy of ALA Midwinter.


Review: The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo

The Creation of Anne Boleyn
by Susan Bordo
Rating: ****
Read 7/9/2013

I really enjoyed this fresh look at Anne Boleyn. Bordo brings all sorts of things to light, things that Tudor aficionados may know already but maybe never put together completely, and things that are accepted as fact that just aren’t true. It’s hard to look backwards without using today as a lens, but Bordo does what seems to me a fine job here.

It was fun to read about the various books, movies, plays, and television shows about Anne, and how she was portrayed. I liked the first, more historical section of the book as well. The photo plates were great, showing me a few portraits I’d never before seen.

I enjoyed the afterword perhaps most of all, where Bordo brings us into the reasons why she chose to write this book.

If you’re a Tudor junkie, this is not to be missed.